Frantic search for next Lagos driver

•  Will APC play the dark horse joker again?

By Tope Templer Olaiya,
Assistant Lagos City Editor

AS the drumbeat of the 2015 general elections reaches a crescendo, the race for the most coveted governorship seat in the country gets intense and fiercer. Curiously, the conspiracy of silence among the ruling party bigwigs is unnerving.
Various names as likely successor to Governor Babatunde Fashola have been thrown up but delay by the All Progressives Congress (APC) to switch on pre-election activities is causing many party stalwarts sleepless nights.
Among those nursing the ambition to be the next occupant of Lagos House, Alausa next year are Commissioner for Works, Obafemi Hamzat; former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Supo Sasore; immediate past Commissioner for Finance, Tokunbo Abiru; his successor, Ayo Gbeleyi; and the Commissioner for Sports and Youth Development, Waheed Enitan Oshodi.
These are the shortlisted five of technocrats perceived to have the capacity to carry on the Fashola legacy, but against the possibility of facing the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Labour Party (LP), who will likely field politically experienced candidates, the APC is tinkering with its options.
The obvious options are two serving Senators, Ganiyu Solomon and Gbenga Ashafa, Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, and former Commissioner for Environment, Dr. Muiz Banire.
WelcomePolitical watchers in the state are, however, second-guessing where the next governor would emerge from out of the three senatorial districts in the state.
The calculations are pretty straight: Lagos West have had it for two terms of eight years with Asiwaju Bola Tinubu from 1999 to 2007; Lagos Central followed with incumbent governor mounting the saddle; which then makes it politically expedient that Lagos East takes its turn from 2015.
This is why contenders from this zone are upbeat about their chances in the race to pick the party’s slot. But what may throw spanner in the works is the strong but subtle agitation by several political and interest groups for a Christian governor in 2015.
This, according to inside sources, is the reason for the party’s vacillation on the post-Fashola project, alongside APC’s fixation on pushing out the PDP from power at the centre. The religious dimension to the dramatis personae of Lagos 2015 project is a growing concern the party cannot wish away.
APC is already being touted as a Muslim party, a tag the national publicity secretary of the PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh, is latching on to, to allege that the party is planning to impose an Islamic agenda in the country like the Egypt Muslim Brotherhood.

Dr Kadiri Obafemi Hamzat

Dr Kadiri Obafemi Hamzat

The consequence of this agitation is that by the time the governorship slot goes to Lagos East, it should be a Christian ticket, if the party is thinking correctly.
“The Christian community is beginning to feel disenfranchised and there is a serious search for a Christian ticket from Lagos East, which will knock off the ambitions of many front-liners like Ashafa, Ikuforiji, Hamzat, GOS and Banire,” a party chieftain, who doesn’t want to be named, noted.
Until Senator Oluremi Tinubu last year openly debunked being in the running for Fashola’s seat, rumour mills had gone agog with the story that the penetrative campaign for a Christian governor may not be unconnected with the move to push Tinubu’s wife forward.
Close aides of the national leader say it was never the plan for her to run, as the move would have hit a brick wall since she is representing Lagos Central at the Senate, the same zone the incumbent governor is from.
“Even the Senate thing didn’t just happen like that. It took a lot of work for Asiwaju to agree to the ticket. You know how women have a way of getting what they want no matter how difficult. Asiwaju just succumbed.
“The lull in the build-up to who clinches the party ticket is leaving everyone guessing who Asiwaju is going to throw up again like he did in 2007 with Fashola. All I can say is that there are lots of candidates waiting to get into the ring. They are only studying the situation before declaring their interest.”
Members of the Tinubu inner caucus revealed to The Guardian that after the five names of possible successors drawn up by Fashola leaked to the public last year, Tinubu drew up his own list of technocrats as a counter balance and arrived at the following: Dr. Leke Pitan, former Commissioner of Health; Prince Gbolahan Lawal, Commissioner of Agriculture and Cooperatives; and the immediate past Accountant-General of the state, Mr. Akin Ambode.

Dr. Leke Pitan

Dr. Leke Pitan

Tokunbo Abiru, who was recently appointed an Executive Director in First Bank, was dropped from consideration, as there are chances he could succeed the current managing director of the bank, Bisi Onasanya, and ensure the MD position remains in the southwest.
Religious consideration notwithstanding, there is a dark horse being primed in Fashola’s inner circle as a last minute joker should the leading contenders be forced to drop their bid and the surprise package, which is being discussed in hush tones, is the Chief of Staff to the governor, Mr. Mikhail Olanrewaju Babalola.
The list of strong contenders the party is presently working on has now been narrowed to two – Obafemi Hamzat and Leke Pitan, who are both from Epe, Lagos East Senatorial District. Of the two, Hamzat is well positioned because of the enormous resources at his disposal and volume of contracts that had passed through his ministry in the last three years.
Also, Hamzat’s father, Oba Olatunji Hamzat, is a well-known formidable grassroots mobilizer and colossus in Lagos politics. His father did Asiwaju a huge favour by stepping down in the running for Senate during the SDP days in 1992. Hamzat senior is also the founder of the Justice Forum, an influential group within the ranks of the Lagos APC.

Dr. Muiz Banire (left); in a handshake across the Niger with Dr. Leke Pitan (right) ... at a recent event

Dr. Muiz Banire (left); in a handshake across the Niger with Dr. Leke Pitan (right) … at a recent event

But the decision by Oba Hamzat to become a traditional ruler in Ogun State is working against his son, Obafemi. The indigeneship issue is what traditional rulers in Lagos are holding against party leaders and the major hurdle to cross is convincing Lagosians to vote an Ogun prince into office as governor.
Pitan is waiting in the wings to benefit from this contradiction. The template for the actualization of his ticket is the resurgence of groups and factions within the APC. Suddenly, groups, which were before now banned in the old Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), have been revved back to life to project and counter balance the interests of aspirants.
Dominant among these groups are Justice Forum, Mandate Group, and Mega Group. As it stands, Mandate Group leads with a 70 percent membership in the defunct ACN, followed by Justice Forum with 25 percent and Mega with five percent. Within the Mandate faction, Leke Pitan is the main element, and he is aided by his senatorial constituency.
But the man who holds the key in the Mandate Group is Asiwaju as he has the last say. For the other groups, Tinubu still has to convince its leaders on major decisions before some consensus are reached.

Akin Ambode

Akin Ambode

Gbolahan Lawal

Gbolahan Lawal

Those in the know in party politics of Lagos State attest to this fact and leaders of the other groups are seriously mobilizing members and shopping for new ones ahead of the APC’s national membership registration in all wards and local government areas of the country to enhance their bargaining power in the party.
This was how an influential party leader sums up the dicey chase to clinching the APC ticket: “Nothing is given yet. Anything can still happen. The agitations for Christian governor is strong but it depends on how much noise the Christians are able to make. The noise has died down, but if the noise persists, the leaders of the party would be forced to rethink on their position. It may then switch from Hamzat to Pitan or Ambode. For now, Hamzat is on the frontline.”

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18 thoughts on “Frantic search for next Lagos driver

  1. abayomi says:

    Nice piece..the race promises to be interesting. It will be nice to see how the rival parties respond when APC finally unveils their candidate. Lets also hope the best candidate emerges in a free and fair primary.

    • topetempler says:

      Thanks sir. Sure the other parties are waiting anxiously and if the process leading to announcement of the APC flagbearer is not properly managed, I foresee an implosion and mass cross-carpeting. After failing the Ondo 2013 project, the outcome of Ekiti with Opeyemi Bamidele roaring down Fayemi would be a litmus test come 2015 in Lagos

      • editor says:

        Thanks for your observation, Tope. However, the selection criteria for aspirants in APC is very competitive and follows the tenets of internal party democracy. I can assure you that anyone presented by the party must have been subjected to a lot of qualitative tests, with checks made on such a candidate’s antecedents in order to ensure that the person is truly a reflection of what the people want.

  2. editor says:

    Great piece, Tope. However, I know you will agree with me that Lagosians are getting to a point where they no longer want to be bothered by issues such as religious or ethnic affiliations. Good governance seems to be the reigning mantra now.
    I like your analysis, no doubt, and I am sure that there exists a potential candidate amongst those you mentioned who can drive this state to the next level. Cheers…

    • topetempler says:

      We will get there sir, but at the moment leading to 2015, the issues of religion and ethnic affiliations really do bother a critical mass of the voting public. Something you can’t take away from the Tinubu model of party politics though is his appetite for digging deep in search of astute technocrats who run governance, while he pulls the lever on politiking.

  3. editor says:

    The “politicking” itself is also something that you cannot dissociate from the electoral process. It is similar to an attempt to separate pain from the process of giving birth.
    The truth is that religious and ethnic affiliations should not matter to any person who really desires change. For instance, if a muslim aspirant is deemed to be the most qualified, does it mean that we shouldn’t give him a chance? The aim of education is to actually liberate our minds from these bias that continue to stand between us and the Lagos state of our dreams.
    keep up the good work.

  4. Outstanding post however I was wondering if you could write a litte more on this subject? I’d be very grateful if you could elaborate a little bit more. Thank you!

  5. Victorboy says:

    Very interesting write up. I must say that even though i am not one to make voting decisions based on religious or ethnic lines. I do think it is important to have the Governor of Lagos State be a Lagosian and an indigene of our State. I do not know much about Mr. Pitan but Mr. Hamzat should not be in the running for the seat in Lagos if he is a royal from Ogun State. If he wants to be a governor he will have to go to his State of origin and compete for the seat there. I am a banker and have actually met Akin Ambode at a few seminars held by Lagos State, i must say he seemed down to earth and sharp. Whichever way im sure the APC politicians have already agreed on who they will present to the public come 2015.

    • topetempler says:

      Thanks for the comment. Majority shares your sentiment about having people go to their states of origin to vie for sensitive positions like the Chief Security Officer of a state. In APC’s tradition, its likely the party candidate would be a technocrat and the few people I have sounded out to make a choice between Pitan and Ambode are actually going for Ambode. To Tinubu, Pitan is a contemporary since he served in his cabinet from 1999 to 2007 as commissioner, while Ambode who served with Fashola is seen as a protege.

      • OmoNaija says:

        I am not sure if your comment about Pitan and Ambode is from the people or your own; nevertheless I believe Pitan is a proven commodity when he was a commissioner for Health and later Education from 1999 to 2007. I do remember the “jigi Bola”, bringing Doctors from overseas to help with heart surgeries, setting up the ambulance system in Lagos with 123 number before it was changed for whatever reason, availability of drugs at the General hospitals. Actually his ministry outperformed other ministries during his tenure. So in camparison with Ambode ,I think Pitan would be better choice. He is a brilliant Doctor with enormous energy and vision. With little time he spent at Ministry of Education, he brought “adopt a school” that involved private sector to improve the schools. Since he left, there has not been any significant improvements at these monistries. I am not putting Ambode down and he may be an amiable person ,I just don’t know any of his achievements that will make me support him as I am from Lagos East.

      • topetempler says:

        Many thanks for your comment, OmoNaija. I like your analysis but be sure none of what you read here is my concoction. In fact, this dissection of Pitan and Ambode is on point. I conferred again with those who should know on this though I can disclose my sources and the word I get is that Pitan ranks well ahead of Ambode but if reading the mind of Asiwaju Tinubu correctly, he prefers or rather is safe with Ambode than Pitan. Pitan is Tinubu’s comtemporary while Ambode is a protege and Tinubu would not want a repeat of the Tinubu/Fashola rivalry with someone politically astute like Pitan.

  6. Linkmaster says:

    Any person that can carry on the legacy of selfless service delivery is my candidate despite religion. The ability to serve people selflessly is an uncommon trait. A deep understanding of how Lagos State works is also important. It is usually useful to have a person with fresh ideas and limited “political baggage” so that a successful candidate can concentrate on governing and delivering results.
    As far as I am concerned the present formula for governing Lagos State has worked and will continue to work with the right candidate that can be definitely produced from the list you have compiled.
    Good piece!!!

  7. Victorboy says:

    Perhaps there is a political trend taking place here. the last 2 commissioners of works and infrastructure (both none indigens of lagos, Aregbesola and now Hamzat) have had ambitions of being governor of lagos. Aregbesola obviously was sent to his home state of Osun and won the election. Perhaps this is the strategy for Hamzat, he may be getting groomed for 2019 Ogun State.

  8. Olugbenga says:

    Reblogged this on Here and There.

  9. Olugbenga says:

    Never knew of this site until today. Sir, please permit me to reblog a few of your interesting pieces on hereandthereng.wordpress.com to further educate the world. I’d appreciate it. Great write-up this is, by the way.

  10. For many weeks I could not figure out a solution but your post eventually enlightened me.

    Thanks ffor revealing!

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